With Michy Batshuayi ruled out for the rest of the season, Borussia Dortmund have a significant goalscoring gap to fill as they look to ensure UEFA Champions League qualification over the final four games. In Marco Reus, Die Schwarzgelben might just have a ready-made replacement.
“But Reus is an attacking midfielder!” bundesliga.com hears you say, but allow us to explain…
Dortmund have been here before, and not so long ago. In January, last season’s top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang swapped the Signal Iduna Park for Arsenal. BVB moved quickly to replace him with Batshuayi, and until his rolled ankle against Schalke last Sunday, the Chelsea-owned striker was the perfect solution, as his seven goals in 10 Bundesliga games attest.
Watch: Reus pulling the strings from behind the striker
So now what? Mario Götze has played as a False 9 for Germany; Maximilian Philipp and Andrey Yarmolenko have in their time led the line for former clubs Freiburg and Dynamo Kiev respectively. But it is Reus who perhaps has the best claim…
Maker or taker?
Reus is renowned as an arch assister of goals. Despite only reaching his 200th Dortmund appearance in the Revierderby reverse last weekend, Reus has laid on 32 Bundesliga assists since re-joining the club in July 2012. Dig a little deeper, though, and it’s apparent that the former Borussia Mönchengladbach man would rather be on the end of the chances he so often helps create. Fifty-nine goals scored in the same period suggest he’d rather take than make; Nine goals compared to four assists in 29 games for Germany make the claim almost bullet-proof.
Reus is also the only player in the BVB squad with a 100 percent clear-cut chance conversion this season. He may have only played seven games, but there is no arguing with his eye for goal. BVB also have an embarrassment of riches further back in the final third. Christian Pulisic, Andre Schürrle and Mahmoud Dahoud have four assists apiece, and have laid on many more chances. Who better than Reus to get on the end of them?
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He’s done it before
Reus’ most prolific season to date remains his final one at Gladbach. A year on from preserving their Bundesliga status by virtue of a promotion/relegation play-off win over VfL Bochum, the Foals cantered into the Champions League places with Reus playing up front beside Mike Hanke. Lucien Favre invariably employed a 4-4-2, and Reus was at the point of the attack in 17 of his 32 games.
The result? Eighteen goals scored – 10 more than seasoned No.9 Hanke – and a place in Germany’s squad for UEFA EURO 2012. “If we’re up against opponents who pull everyone back behind the ball, he can be the most advanced pivot in our passing game,” Die Nationalmannschaft coach Jogi Löw told fifa.com that summer. A goal in the quarter-final win over Greece proved the coach right. On the bench when Italy edged them out in the semis, how far might Germany have gone with Reus fully fit?
Batshuayi, Aubameyang before him - and indeed Robert Lewandowski before them - were physical specimens. All three of them were 6’0” tall or more; Auba was once recorded covering 60 metres faster than eight-time Olympic champion and recent BVB trialist Usain Bolt; Nuri Sahin nicknamed Lewandowski “The Body” when the pair played together at the Signal Iduna Park.
Reus is a veritable lightweight compared to the aforementioned, weighing in at just 70Kg. However, his speed on and off the ball and ability to spring the offside trap – see his goal in the 1-1 draw at RB Leipzig on Matchday 25 – show that he can thrive at the tip of his team’s attack. Who needs brawn when you have quick legs and an even quicker footballing mind?
Watch: Marco Reus - 18 Bundesliga clubs, 18 goals!
Last May’s DFB Cup final rather encapsulated Reus’ career to date. Dortmund beat Eintracht Frankfurt 2-1 (with Reus playing in a front two with Aubameyang). It was Reus’ first major title with BVB… and he tore a cruciate ligament in the first half, to be replaced by Pulisic at the interval. “You just want to play the sport you enjoy,” Reus vented to bundesliga.com at the time. “And it’s very hard to deal with the prospect of not being able to do that when you’re out for six, seven or even eight months.”
A direct hand in four scoring chances on his comeback against Hamburg show the club’s vice-captain is made of the right stuff, though, and since then he’s played like a man possessed. Now, Champions League qualification is the primary goal, and Reus has no doubt he can lead the charge. “I’ve shown I can play in a number of positions, and that's important,” he concluded. "We have to make sure that at the end of the season we qualify for the Champions League, and I don't really care how that happens!"